As the holidays come around, many of us are unaware of the religious season that comes with it: Advent. Though most are knowledgeable of the Christian season’s name, we tend to be unaware of the significance that this season holds.
Have you ever thought to notice how much closer everyone is during the holidays? We all have noticed the compliments and greetings that seem to swell in sentiment as we draw nearer to Christmas Day. It’s a delightful season in which Jesus’ love steps in to remind us how our family is not just limited to genetics and marriage, but it rather extends to everyone on earth. Without realizing it, we embrace the four themes that are each paired with a week of Advent: hope, peace, joy, and love.
Hope is a virtue in which we look to the future with optimism, one in which we dare to expect the coming of good things. “Dare” may seem a bit extreme to you, but in modern society, it is completely fitting. It has become part of human nature to suspect the worst and trust only what we see. This is entirely contradictory to hope. God gives us hope so that we can have faith, so that we can believe in the unseen, so that we can trust in the goodness to come. Hope defines the first week of Advent because it is in this week we are furthest from Christmas Day. When something seems distant to us, hope is how we carry on, look up, and draw nearer to what we await. Mary and Joseph, despite the seemingly unpromising situations they were in, made it to Bethlehem by the hope that things would turn out for the better. They did not dwell on everything that could go wrong, but rather they kept moving forward. Did they ever stop searching for an inn where they could stay? In this Advent season, remember to look up to what comes, and not dread every way something could go wrong. If you can’t find anything to hope for, just remember that faith is the purest hope we can have. In this Christmas season especially, we should recall that our faith lies in the salvation we received from our Savior. Not from a Savior-hero who came in fire and lightning, but from a baby who came in peace.
Peace is a state in which we aspire to be: a state where one is eternally maintaining(or working to achieve) a world, community, and virtue that quenches all severity and restlessness with compassion and patience. We should not be misled into thinking that the word “peace” means a calm world, but that peace is a virtuous state that allows us to find calm and love even when the world around us is chaotic. God sent his Son to bring peace and show us how to maintain its virtue. When Jesus told us to turn the other cheek, when he suffered quietly on his march to Calvary, he gave us a perfect example of how to most exemplify peace. By not reacting in anger, we absorb and neutralize discord and restlessness instead of deflecting it somewhere else. Advent is an excellent opportunity for us to settle the conflicts that keep up from us from peace. If we all work to get along with one another, we can all enjoy this holy, wonderful season much more. Try to go above and beyond with this virtue, resolving any resentment you hold inside. The second week of Advent emphasizes peace, because only with peace may we truly find joy.
Joy is an abounding happiness, one so powerful and pure that its divine extent may only exist when encountered with gratitude and shared with others. Peace is essential to joy, because joy needs relationships that not inhibited by resentment. Our relationships(family and friends especially) are like oxygen if joy is a struck match: the match flame will sputter and dissipate into darkness without any oxygen for sustenance. The Christmas story even conveys the social necessity of peace. Notice that Mary and Joseph were not the only ones to adore the precious baby in the manger, but that the angels reached out to shepherds to come and share the abounding joy with Jesus’ human parents. It should be mentioned that not only does peace facilitate joy, but that joy can facilitate the creation of peace. Jesus’ birth brought shepherds, kings, and animals to a joyous silence. Sharing joy with others should be another goal for us during the Christmas season, a way that our world will grow more meaningful and loving.
Finally, Love is the immense, intelligent compassion that is indispensable to every other virtue we have and experience; its calescent luminosity will forever be our advocate, even in the darkest of times. The Christmas season would be reduced to nothing without this extraordinary virtue of compassion. Jesus Christ was a gift of indescribable love, a gift so great we could never deserve it. Imagine if your most valuable possession was a very fragile glass ornament. Now imagine giving that ornament to a young child. It would take an immense amount of love to be so trusting and generous. This is perhaps the best way we can attempt to understand what it was like for God to send his one and only son in the form of a baby. We should never forget that this action of love is the reason we have Christmas; to forget about love would be to celebrate a meaningless holiday. Christ was the ultimate gift of love, the gift we should try to give as best as we can. The compassion we give to family, friends, and the rest of the world is the easiest present we can ever give. This is so because long as we intend to show love, it will shine through. A child may draw a picture, a man may purchase jewelry, a mother may buy clothes, but in the end, all three give the same gift. Therefore, why do we fret over which present to buy whom? It is reasonable we want to show our love as best as we can, but we should not fall to a panic in choosing. Remember in the holiday season that our best gift will never come short – the present does not matter so much. The love does.
Advent is a precious season in which each week brings us to reminisce over a new theme or virtue. We too often let each week pass, mostly ignoring the word that it tries to bestow on our hearts and minds. The twinkling lights and the newly-wrapped presents can, in all honesty, be quite distracting as we count down the days to Christmas. We must all remember to attempt celebrating each week of Advent so that we are more fully prepared to have an AWESOME Christmas with family and friends. We start off in hope, making Christmas precious by spending time in wait and expectation for all the good things it will bring. We continue the season with peace by reconciling with others, dropping our grudges, and being content despite the world’s bustle. In the third week, we come to focus on joy, sharing happiness as far as we can so that it multiplies, reminding the world of the potential we have to feel purely wonderful. Then shines love in the fourth week, reinforcing each previous theme and defining the extraordinary holiday as one of giving and compassion. At last, on Christmas, we realize that Jesus is the gift that each week has prepared us to appreciate. He brought hope, peace, joy, and love, because he is our hope, he is the one in whom we find peace, he is the source of our joy, and he is the ultimate gift of love.